Stories & Cast Interviews

Monday, April 25, 2016

Meet Jonathan Stahl, the Director of Happy Days

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Jonathan Stahl is a WBT regular having performed, directed, choreographed and even assistant stage managed shows.  He has performed in The Full Monty, Gypsy, Beauty and the Beast, Guys and Dolls, Singin' In The Rain, Phantom, George M and several Holiday shows to name a few. He has choreographed The Wizard of Oz, and Phantom. And he has proudly directed and choreographed Nine starring Bob Cuccioli (and some amazing women), The Sound of Music, Legally Blonde, The Christmas Inn, and It Happened One Christmas Eve.  

I grew up in south central PA in the valley between the north and south mountains.  NewvillePA to be exact. I lived in the country and had a very enjoyable upbringing that did not have a lot of urban culture. I went to public school and did high school theatre productions. I played in the band, sang in the choir… I did not start dancing till much later and eventually went away to college for musical theatre — somewhat against all odds

I was somewhat influenced by Sunday afternoon movie musicals and movies by Shirley Temple. I had a very supportive teacher in middle school who did one small community review who gave me encouragement.  In high school, I was mesmerized by the movie ALL THAT JAZZ.  I did not see much live theatre, but did go to local regional theatre when the opportunity arose. My own work has been greatly influenced by working with Richard Stafford as his associate the last few years.

When not working on a show, I am continuing my education…either as a performer (dance classes, acting classes and the like), or as a student of life. I recently got  his undergraduate degree after a 25 year hiatus and thoroughly enjoyed the education I received in doing so.  I like traveling, going to the gym and museums.  "Ironically, I have to remind myself I need to go see shows from time to time. I always love the theatre."

Being a WBT veteran, (approaching 20 shows!) I am very used to the quick rehearsal process... but being used to it does not make it easier.   It is always a challenge to budget time wisely and make the best use of the actors time/energy. However, the fast pace can also be invigorating.

I am very HAPPY and have been counting the DAYS that I am getting to work on this musical.  This show presents a unique opportunity to look anew at a 1970s sitcom about growing up in the 1950s.  The differences, as well as the similarities, in the two eras, have made working on this show incredibly interesting and informative.  

Having grown up watching Happy Days, the TV show and having lived in Milwaukee for a few years, I feel a connection to the piece and to these characters.  As I re-watched some of the old episodes from an "adult" perspective, I was taken by the talent of the cast and the often ground-breaking social commentary of the plots.   They truly made an impact on society in the 1970s.  This musical stands as a  reminder of how Richie and the gang influenced us back then. But Happy Days, the musical, is more, in that it also serves to remind us of the timeless values the TV show stood for, values which give it the same impact today: loyalty to family and friends, along with fighting for just causes, not to mention  the gratification we all get from a happy ending.  Asking my cast of talented actors to seek the essence of these iconic characters, and yet find their own truths as actors creating a role, was a welcome challenge. For all of us, the opportunity to bring this special piece of theatre to appreciative audiences makes these days HAPPY DAYS, indeed.  

Westchester Broadway offers a unique experience.  They have a wonderful chef and I enjoy the food very much when I get the opportunity to eat there.  Combine this with top notch productions at a less than Broadway price, I think your readers should make it a priority to experience this great evening of entertainment.